Crime and Punishment

Comparison Essay between Crime and Punishment and Notes from the
Underground

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s stories are stories of a sort of rebirth. He
weaves a tale of suffering and how each character attempts to deliver
themselves from this misery. In the novel Crime and Punishment, he
tells the story of Raskolnikov, a former student who murders an old
pawnbroker as an attempt to prove a theory. In Notes from the
Underground, we are given a chance to explore Dostoyevsky’s opinion of
human beings.
Dostoyevsky’s characters are very similar, as is his stories. He puts
a strong stress on the estrangement and isolation his characters feel.
His characters are both brilliant and “sick” as mentioned in each novel,
poisoned by their intelligence. In Notes from the Underground, the
character, who is never given a name, writes his journal from solitude.
He is spoiled by his intelligence, giving him a fierce conceit with
which he lashes out at the world and justifies the malicious things he
does. At the same time, though, he speaks of the doubt he feels at the
value of human thought and purpose and later, of human life. He
believes that intelligence, to be constantly questioning and
“faithless(ly) drifting” between ideas, is a curse. To be damned to see
everything, clearly as a window (and that includes things that aren’t
meant to be seen, such as the corruption in the world) or constantly
seeking the meaning of things elusive. Dostoyevsky thought that humans
are evil, destructive and irrational.
In Crime and Punishment, we see Raskolnikov caught between reason and
will, the human needs for personal freedom and the need to submit to
authority. He spends most of the first two parts stuck between wanting
to act and wanting to observe. After he acts and murders the old
woman, he spends much time contemplating confession. Raskolnikov seems
trapped in his world although there is really nothing holding him back;
he chooses not to flee and not to confess, but still acts as though he’s
suffocation (perhaps guilt?)In both novels defeat seems inevitable.
Both characters believe that normal man is stupid, unsatisfied and
confused. Perhaps they are right, but both characters fail to see the
positive aspects of humans; the closest was the scene between the
narrator of Notes from the Underground and Liza. In this scene he
almost lets the human side show, rather than the insecure, closed off
person he normally is.
I assert that Dostoyevsky’s characters are (clinically) depressive of
some sort. They complain of a detachment to life and alienation from
other people, just going through the motions. They are suffering, but
are unwilling to give up and are also helpless in terms of feeling
better. They are confused as to what to do in the future and see it
only as a bleak possibility, just more problems. And with the collapse
of certainty, men and women will do crazy things.